Damien Hirst - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Saturday, June 28, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jay Jopling Fine Art, London; Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    G. Burn and D. Hirst, Damien Hirst, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now, London, 1997, p. 235, (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “With Hirst and the Young British Artists, the instincts and impulses of contemporary English society entered the world of art, with the same arrogance with which punk language and ritualism invented a generational lifestyle in the late 1960s.  YBA is a wave of desires, visions, objects, and shocking behaviors that produced a fashion and destroyed many illusions about the purity of art in the 1990s.” (E. Cicelyn, ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’ in Damien Hirst, Naples, 2004
    With its multi-coloured dotted surface and monumental size, Damien Hirst’s iconic spot painting Aminoantipyrine from 1992 is one of the earliest and most serene of the series.
    With the carefully painted circular dots, each with their own designated hue, Hirst’s Spot Paintings are signature to his breakthrough into the International Contemporary Art Scene. Having belonged to the YBA’s (Young British artists) – a group which saw conceptual artists, painters, sculptors and installation artists emerge out of British culture and rise to fame through a 1992 held exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, the present lot holds particular significance, both aesthetically as well as historically in Hirst’s own artistic repertoire.
    Hirst’s artistic oeuvre has always been concerned with the concept of life and death and the ideas of transience. In this body of work, possibly, Hirst’s most identified body of work, the artist clearly confronts issues concerning the ubiquitous nature of modern pharmacology and the prescription drug industry. Basing his Spot Paintings on this topic, the painting is arranged mathematically in a grid, where each uniquely painted spot is contrasted against a stark, almost clinically white background. It is through this precise and delicate arrangement within the Spot Painting series that Hirst conceptually explores the idea of faith in medicine, questioning its truthfulness and ability to mislead.  As Hirst proclaims “Art is like medicine – it can heal.  Yet I’ve always been amazed at how many people believe in medicine, but don’t believe in art…” (Damien Hirst in R. Violet, ed., I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Elsewhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now., London, 1997, n.p).
    Without any deep understanding of the artist’s methodology or his interest in medicine and science, the present work is a unique and beautiful painting, whose colours run the spectrum and whose size and wall-power grasp immediate attention. With its multi-coloured surface of dots, the painting unfolds a visual dance when viewing it.  Jumping from bright to dark, the eye is never forced to remain at one focal point – instead, the painting begins to unfold a system in which the eye starts to imagine pattern and grids within the large scale. As such, the combination of coloured dots inhabited in this seminal work Aminoantipyrene, combines appearance and content into one large scale field of colour that is contrasted against a stark, almost clinically white background, Hirst is clearly presenting a work that comments on an overmedicated culture; both prescription and illicit, and a collective search for a societal mortality. Hirst’s understanding of the pervasive impact of medication on our culture along with our insatiable appetite for a quick-fix medication contributes to the psychological impact of the spot paintings and underpins his ability to touch on the universal theme of life and death.
    “…the power of modern science in shaping society continues to expand at unprecedented speed.  Hirst captures the intrinsic duality of science as a beneficent instrument for improving human comfort and as a nihilist force for the subjugation of individual autonomy via homogenization of the mass consumer society, the chemical manipulation of mind and mood and proliferating electronic capabilities to monitor and control human behaviour.”  (G. Poste, ‘Revealing Reality Within a Body of Imaginary Things’ in D. Hirst, Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results and Findings, New York, 2000, pp. 113-114)
    The present lot is a powerful example of the formal arrangements used by the artist within this body of work – power of serial repetition, specific ordering and the balance of colour is also crucial in the work’s projection. Hirst’s unique ability to gradually subvert, condense, package, order and re-present the weighty topics of life and death, science and medicine and consumption and abuse for his audience is epitomised in this series of paintings that have continually been produced over the last ten years.  Creating a dynamic painting filled with a comobination of visual playfulness, semiotic elements and conceptual significance, emphasizes Hirst’s ability to produce work that can touch on deep emotions through his artistic vision.

  • Artist Biography

    Damien Hirst

    British • 1965

    There is no other contemporary artist as maverick to the art market as Damien Hirst. Foremost among the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group of provocative artists who graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London in the late 1980s, Hirst ascended to stardom by making objects that shocked and appalled, and that possessed conceptual depth in both profound and prankish ways.

    Regarded as Britain's most notorious living artist, Hirst has studded human skulls in diamonds and submerged sharks, sheep and other dead animals in custom vitrines of formaldehyde. In tandem with Cheyenne Westphal, now Chairman of Phillips, Hirst controversially staged an entire exhibition directly for auction with 2008's "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever," which collectively totalled £111 million ($198 million).

    Hirst remains genre-defying and creates everything from sculpture, prints, works on paper and paintings to installation and objects. Another of his most celebrated series, the 'Pill Cabinets' present rows of intricate pills, cast individually in metal, plaster and resin, in sterilized glass and steel containers; Phillips New York showed the largest of these pieces ever exhibited in the United States, The Void, 2000, in May 2017.

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Household gloss on canvas.
203.2 x 223.5 cm. (80 x 88 in).
Titled ‘Aminoantipyrine’ on the stretcher.

£700,000 - 900,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £825,250

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2008, 5pm